Señor Wences (born 1896, died 1999) belongs with Shari Lewis and Edgar Bergen as one of history's premier ventriloquists. I first saw Wences and his puppets on the Muppet Show, where they distinguished themselves by being weirder than the rest of the cast (and on a show with Gonzo, Electric Mayhem, and a bunch of hyperactive chickens, that's a feat).

Wences's act consisted largely of bizarre Spanish-accented banter with his two puppets (Pedro and Johnny). Pedro was nothing more than a head inside a box; apparently, some accident had crushed his body, and Wences, who had no time to make a new puppet, simply put the head inside a box and went on. Of course, he was rather concerned about his newly decapitated (or decorpitated, whatever) puppet, so he spent most of his act asking after Pedro's health:

Wences: "S'ok?"
Head in Box: "S'all right."
Wences: "S'all right?"
Head in Box: "S'ok."
Wences: "Are you sure?"
Head in Box: "SHUT DE DOOR!"

His second "puppet" was Johnny, who was Wences's fist (with a mouth drawn on it) and a blonde wig on top. While Wences was ventriloquating, he'd drink water and then take puffs from a cigarette. Then he'd give the cigarette to Johnny, who would take a puff and blow smoke rings of his own. I am not making this up. Needless to say, Kermit and the rest of the Muppet gang looked on with astonishment and envy.

Like many comedy acts, Wences's shtick was distinctly funnier in the era in which it first appeared, but you'll still see references to it pop up in the Quickdraw McGraw cartoon, Dennis Miller routines, and MST3K episodes (but then, what don't Miller and the MST3K guys refer to?)

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